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History of the Fischer-Tropsch GTL Process

History of the Fischer-Tropsch GTL Process

The development of the Fischer-Tropsch (“FT”) process and its technological advancements can be well defined by the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention”. During World War II, it was developed in Germany and later used in South Africa as a result of OPEC and UN oil sanctions. During its history, Malaysia, Russia, New Zealand, the USA, and Qatar have all been, or currently still are, homes to gas-to-liquid plants that utilize the FT process. 

During the course of World War 2 Germany found it increasingly difficult to source conventional oil and refined product supplies for its war effort and was thus incentivized to develop alternative options.

The first production of Synthetic Liquid Hydrocarbons (SLH) had been effected from syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) in Germany by F. Fischer and G. Tropsch in 1926. By 1944, based on Fischer-Tropsch technology (FT-synthesis), Germany had developed this to an industrial scale with 9 plants producing some 600 thousand tonnes/year. 

Apartheid was proclaimed as the official policy of the Republic of South Africa government following the general election in 1948. In addition to an arms embargo imposed by the United Nations from the 1960s, OPEC members also imposed an oil embargo from 1973 onwards. This was followed by a United Nations oil embargo resolution passed in 1980. 

In 1955 the Sasol company built the Sasol-1 plant in Sasolburg which produced some 5,600-8,000 b/d of synthetic hydrocarbon liquids. 

The prompt rise in oil prices as a consequence of the 1973 and 1979 oil crises and the impact of sanctions compelled the Republic of South Africa to develop large scale national programs directed to the production of alternative synthetic fuels. 

Accordingly, in 1980 and 1983 South Africa commissioned two synthetic liquid hydrocarbon (SLH) plants: Sasol-2 and Sasol-3 in Secunda city. In addition to SLH these enterprises are at the present time manufacturing various chemical products (alcohols, acids, monomers, polymers and many others). Sasol-2 and Sasol-3 still use local brown coal as the raw material for syngas production. 

In 1991 PetroSA, the national oil company of the Republic of South Africa, constructed the Mossgas plant based on Sasol technology in Mossel Bay city on the Indian Ocean coast. It was the first commercial GTL plant using natural gas as a raw material for syngas production. ” 

SynStream Energy Corp. (TSX.V: SHM) aims to become a key player in reducing Canada’s carbon footprint. They have partnered with Expander Energy Inc. to participate in the commissioning of North America’s first commercial, small-scale, gas-to-liquids plant. 







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Laura is 8020 Connect’s Client Communications & Social Media Specialist. In 2014, She received her Bachelor of Communications in Information Design from Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. After a couple brief positions in other marketing roles, Laura has found her home with 8020.

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